Introspect Theatre Company’s debut production The 39 Steps is an absolutely hilarious spy-thriller romp with a hugely talented cast executed with comedic genius. Presented at Northpine Christian College Performing Arts Centre and directed by Introspect Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, Cindy Sykes, The 39 Steps is one production not to be missed in 2021.
Patrick Barlow’s script is a thrilling adaptation of Hitchcock’s 1935 murder-mystery masterpiece which was based on a spy novel from 1915 by John Buchan. The genius of Barlow’s script is in its execution with a small ensemble cast of only five actors portraying a huge multitude of eccentric, charismatic and unequivocally entertaining characters.
The 39 Steps follows the devilishly handsome and undeniably British, Richard Hannay, as he finds himself embroiled in a mysterious spy plot. Richard quickly becomes a notorious fugitive escaping from London to the Scottish highlands. Jumping through windows and onto trains to escape spies, the police and cunning murderers, Richard is Britain’s only hope of rescue from a den of devious spies as he embarks on his crazy adventure to uncover the plot of The 39 Steps and clear his own name.
The set and prop design (by Ashley Coyte and Emmilyne Major respectively) is highly creative, innovative and simply superb. The stage opens on Richard Hannay’s stylishly designed London flat featuring an armchair and a window. As the show moves through, each element of the set is quickly adapted to be used as something entirely different. For example, the ladders used tastefully as decoration in Hannay’s flat later double as a bridge when he escapes from a train. The use of simple wooden squares held up by actors as windows is not only brilliant but simply hilarious and only serves to add to the melodramatic comedic effect of this production.
Costumes designed by Narelle Coyte, Kaliesha Coyte and Louise Buckley are elegant and perfectly evokes 1930s London. The use of a number of wigs and hats are particularly effective in aiding the quick character transitions. The two clowns portray a huge multitude of characters throughout the show and this is very successfully supported through the use of clever costuming. A very special mention goes out to the design of Willy McGarrigle’s kilt, Mrs McGarrigle’s outfit, Mrs Jordan’s wig and outfit and the outfits of Mr McCordquodale and his assistant.
The technical production and operation of lighting and sound by Dwane and Damien Hedges perfectly supports the production despite a few minor hiccups to be expected on opening night. The sound design by Cindy Sykes and Cein D’Costa is superb and a great homage to Hitchcock’s film. Cindy Sykes’ direction of The 39 Steps is a testament to her immense skill and creativity. Each scene is flawlessly staged and despite the limited space and resources of the production, Sykes invents immensely innovative solutions. So much so that the audience can suspend their disbelief and truly imagine that Richard Hannay is jumping out of a train carriage, climbing on the roof and jumping off as he is being chased by police. Sykes’ direction, vision and imagination for this production should be applauded.
In the role of Richard Hannay, Cein D’Costa, is the perfect hero. D’Costa’s acting is wonderfully executed and his facial expressions are simply divine. D’Costa also delivers some delightfully challenging physical comedy when escaping from under the dead body of Annabella Schmidt (Cindy Sykes) in his armchair and also evading the police and jumping from the train carriage. D’Costa’s love-hate chemistry with his romantic counterpart, Pamela Edwards (Robyn Payne) is to die for. D’Costa’s delivery of an oblivious motivational speech during the “Vote 1 McCordquodale” scene is inspiring. Cein D’Costa is incredibly brilliant and portrays a believable yet laugh-out-loud funny, Richard Hannay.
Director, Cindy Sykes, briefly appears as the mysterious, Annabella Schmidt, as well as the innocent and naive Scottish girl, Margaret. Sykes is such a talented performer that most of the audience is hard-pressed to recognise these two characters as the same actor. Sykes ability to play with accents and body language is outstanding.
As the hero’s love-interest, Robyn Payne portrays an outspoken and frustratingly stubborn, Pamela Edwards. Payne’s performance is simply stunning as she creates a perfectly combatant partner for Hannay (Cein D’Costa) which only serves to heighten the sexual tension. Payne particularly shines in the hotel room scene where she engineers her escape from the handcuffs.
The design of the script calls for two additional actors to portray what is referred to as ‘the clowns’. The two clowns, Michael Petrie and Ashley Coyte, play more than 20 characters between the two of them and are the absolute standouts of this production. The 39 Steps would simply not be the same without Petrie and Coyte who deliver such hilarious characters as Mr and Mrs McGarrigle, Professor and Mrs Jordan, policemen, spies, Mr Memory and Mr McCordquodale.
A most special mention goes out to the wonderfully talented, Michael Petrie, whose comedic portrayal of a multitude of characters is simply outstanding. Petrie’s body language, accents and charisma shines throughout the show and is the highlight of the night.
Introspect Theatre Company’s The 39 Steps is an absolute stunner of a production by a new theatre company that is so funny that the audience laughs so much that they cry. Featuring strikingly creative sets and costumes with an utterly side-splitting plot and decidedly brilliant cast, this is a show that you will not want to miss.
Tickets are on sale now for the rest of their seasons through https://introspect39steps.eventbrite.com